Story by Gwen Powers Wales as told to Allison Mitchell
Back before this nasty coronavirus began meddling in our business, we were free to move about the community, unhindered. I doubt any of us will take that for granted going forward.
One positive thing that has happened during this quarantine is long, uninterrupted conversations with my mother. With nowhere to go and little else going on, old, forgotten scenes from my childhood have bubbled up to the forefront of her memory, and she’s been inclined to share more than usual. No doubt, some of these memories are more entertaining than anything on Netflix.
As my mother recalls, it was summer in the early ’50s. She was around 21 years old, and I was only 2. Our lives revolved around our church. My mother was not a licensed driver, and my dad was not at home this particular evening, but that would not hinder us from joining our congregation for an old-time revival meeting. We simply waited on the church bus to come through the neighborhood and pick us up.
This was in the days when women dressed up any time they left the house — especially for church. Southern ladies in their dainty dresses with matching hats and handbags was a familiar scene. And in that matching handbag my mom carried was a jar of water for me because it was summer, and sippy cups did not exist.
We happily rode the church bus to the revival meeting with friends and family. As was custom following the service, the women chatted in the church yard while the men rolled their Country Gentleman cigarettes. With their parent’s attention drawn away, the children ran and played, enjoying the lovely summer night.
By all accounts, I must have been content during the revival meeting because I didn’t drink any of my water. For some reason, my mom decided to pour it out before we returned home. The problem was, she waited until we were seated on the bus to pour the full jar of water out the window.
There happened to be a lady enjoying a friendly conversation beneath our window. To her surprise, she received a shower right there beside the bus. Clearly forgetting the revival sermon, she ran up the bus steps, hair dripping and dress drenched, and demanded to know who was responsible for her soaking.
Unfortunately, my mother didn’t tell me what happened next. I’m not sure if she is still embarrassed or if she is protecting the identity of a peeved parishioner. After all, it took her a full 67 years to even tell me this much of the story.
Thanks to this long buried account, though, I finally received an explanation as to why I spent my childhood sitting through numerous church services with a dry mouth and no water.